Memorandum submitted by Julian and Christine Brewer

 

Summary

Understanding the flexibility, strength and efficiency of home-education in providing a child-centred education takes time and exposure. The committee had little effective knowledge of, let alone expertise in home-education which has prejudiced the outcomes.

A large amount of the research on the beneficial outcome of elective home education has been ignored. Proposals assume outcomes need improving while research shows outcomes are better than the school system.

The stance taken on abuse in a home-education setting is based on innuendo not evidence. The measures used as a proxy for abuse are flawed. Seeking evidence to support an opinion already held without a basis is bias.

The proposals seem to treat parents as an agent of the state and put forward draconian, intrusive and inappropriate proposals on that basis.

The proposals will not improve outcomes or prevent abuse, but divert resources from these necessary tasks in areas where risks are shown to be higher.

 

As home-educators of 17 years experience in two different Local Education Authority (LEA) areas, we would like to submit the following points for the committee's inquiry into the conduct and conclusions of the Badman review.

 

1. Our experience - both in ourselves and with different LEA advisors, is that it takes some considerable time and exposure to elective home education (EHE) to comprehend its flexibility, strengths and efficiency in providing a child-centred education. I am concerned that the "expert committee" seems to have little effective knowledge of, let alone expertise in, elective home education. I believe this has had a disastrous effect - with conclusions being based on opinion , not knowledge, and vast amounts of the extensive research on the beneficial outcomes of EHE being ignored. The review is therefore flawed, as it had very little knowledge or expertise in the subject it was reviewing, and ignored much of the evidence available.

 

2. There has been innuendo, but not evidence, that home-education may be used as a cover for abuse. The NSPCC have claimed this is the case, but have had to retract this statement when challenged as it was unfounded. The Badman report cites evidence, and the committee should enquire closely into this, as I understand that the source of this evidence has yet to be disclosed.

 

3. I now understand that Mr Badman is seeking evidence to support his conclusions in this area. Surely his conclusions should be based on evidence, and unless he is also seeking evidence to support the contrary position, this action is itself evidence of bias.

 

4. I understand that the report uses the number of children known to social services as a measure of child abuse. This link is incorrect. I also understand that research shows that the proportion of children in this group considered 'at risk' is far lower than normal. Taken together, this must lead to the conclusion that the home-education community is a safer one than schools. To target time and resources in the wrong direction would harm and not enhance child safety.

 

5. The report seems to ignore the consensus that strong families build strong communities. The whole report is based on a pre-supposition that children are better off in schools. This is also the view taken by a number of LEAs. Research does not support this view. The pre-supposition is that home-education needs close regulation to ensure good educational outcomes and ensure protection against abuse. We agree with the need for good educational outcomes and for protection against abuse.

Educational outcomes - Research (Dr Brian Ray and others) demonstrates beneficial outcomes from EHE, not just for well-educated parents, but for parents of all educational levels and for those of ethnic origins that traditionally under-perform in schools. A logical conclusion might be that resources would be better spent promoting EHE, or at least making its availability better known.

Children at the greatest risk of abuse - Research shows this community is safer than most. Resources should be directed to known risk areas, e.g. where one parent is living with a different partner to the child's father, or families known to have drink/drug related problems.

 

6. The report comes up with proposals that are draconian, an infringement of civil liberty, and a direct attack on family cohesion.

It is wholly inappropriate to suggest either a right of access to the home, or a right to interview a child alone, in the absence of specific evidence of abuse.

The proposed requirement for annual registration is an unnecessary bureaucratic burden for parents and LEAs that distracts from the work of education which, it should be remembered, is being done alongside and as a part of normal family life.

The requirement for a clear statement of educational approach/intent and desired outcomes for 12 months is the antithesis of the freedom to follow a child's interests as they arise in the year and provide plenty of scope for a LEA to unreasonably reject a registration.

The report ignores the legal position that the parent is primarily responsible for a child's education, and not the state.

There is a pre-supposition of a right of a child to go to school, but not a right of a child to be electively home educated.

 

7. The position regarding vulnerable children and those with special educational needs is particularly invidious. These are people who often benefit most from the special provisions and extra nurture available in the home-educating environment. The parent can choose activities and interaction that will most support a specific child's needs. These parents may need more support, but they do not need extra intrusion from what may be an antagonistic LEA.

 

8. The review should be strongly evidenced based. It should draw on a wide body of research and experience to enable robust and evidence based conclusions to be put forward. Based on what I have seen and read of the report, the lack of using knowledgeable experts, its selective use of evidence, its immoderate proposals, the huge cost of implementing proposals, its diverting scarce resources away from real needs, the work has resulted in unsoundly based proposals that, if implemented, would set back and not further educational outcomes or child protection.

 

September 2009